Jailbreaking is a process that allows iPhone, iPod Touch (and now iPad) users to run any code on their devices as they choose, as opposed to only the code authorized by Apple. Once jailbroken, Apple-device users are able to download a multitude of applications previously unavailable through the App Store via unofficial installers such as Cydia, as well as illegally pirated apps. Regarding the practice - Apple says "no way" - while Hackers say, "way'!!!
In February, 2009, Apple stated that Jailbreaking was a copyright infringement and is in clear violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA criminalizes those that produce, disseminate or control access of copyrighted works. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a watch-dog organization that protects the fundamental rights of the digerati regardless of technology filed exemption requests to the DMCA. They are requesting that the DMCA rule that remix artists, iPhone owners, app developers and cell phone recyclers are within their rights to 'jailbreak.'
Jailbreaking allows you to add additional applications to your Apple Device. It permits you to do so by adding Cydia and/or similar applications. It also allows modding (changing) of your iPhone/iPod Touch application icons, wallpaper, dock, status bar, chat bubbles, weather backgrounds, and keyboards.
The debate has gotten heated over the years, and even more so now with the release of Apple's iPad, which hackers were able to jailbreak into within days of its release. The 'fly in the ointment' with iPads is that if a ruling does come down in favor of the EFF and jailbreaking is deemed legal, this ruling would not apply to iPads, since only iPhones and iPod Touch were submitted with the original EFF exemption request.
Extremists have even taken to designing 'scare tactics' posters like these to warn hackers from going down this road!
If you are so inclined to jailbreak, this video provides an informative overview of the Pros and Cons, including the central concern users should have in breaking the 'bond between Apple and the device."
If after reviewing that video, you are still unsure whether or not to jailbreak, here is a tutorial produced by the same company that provides you with some additional insight and advice.
Jailbreaking allows for all kinds of uses of which Apple doesn't approve, from illegal or unsavory apps (including emulators and porn) to aesthetic customizations (wallpaper, widgets) to battery-draining activities used for mult-tasking.
Jay Freeman, founder of Cydia (sort of the open-source app store for jailbreak apps) estimates 8.5% of all iPhones and iPods Touch are jailbroken--and given the possibilities with the iPad's crazy battery life and powerful processor, he sees some really impressive jailbreak apps in the future. According to the iPadJailbreak blog, " while there are also 15 paid apps in Cydia, the store has earned $220,000 in overall sales in just five months (as of February, 2010)."
Most jailbreaks to date have used vulnerabilities either in Safari or the OS itself to grant unrestricted access. "The combination of the risk to users and Apple's own general discouragement of jailbreaking has led to many of these jailbreaks being rendered inert over time with firmware updates." according to a Macnn report.
So is jailbreaking in the cards for you or do do you feel the comfort of Apple's confinement an OK place to be? Whatever is determined by the DMCA in the next couple of months will set the legal precedent for years to come, as any action against Apple's position would take a minimum of three years before an organization could even file a new exemption, say for iPad.
So, good luck in the big house, or on-the-run, which ever lifestyle you prefer!